Sister Maps by Sublamp

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Sublamp | Sister Maps
Dragon’s Eye Recordings (DL)

Los Angeles sound designer/engineer Ryan Connor is Sublamp, and Sister Maps is his first release on Dragon’s Eye Recordings in a decade. Each of these half dozen Maps 01-06 runs for exactly twelve minutes (or 72:00), “a collection of parallel songs, parallel in time but separated by space.” As an artist who works almost exclusively with urban issues and imagery in my personal work I was immediately attracted to Connor’s take on the cityscape, and mapping/space in general. As this opens it sort of nullifies its direction as there seems to be one layer moving forward and one back simultaneously, sort of defying traditional urban planning in its mediated topography. In fact, the ear seems to be misdirected, or purposefully flummoxed by the branching style of the synthesized orientation via Map 01. The listener will be pulled in multiples directions at once, almost like a subway system running on many rails.

The mood empties of its contents on the next track, like being in a cavernous concrete building with a few archaic fluorescent lamps still flickering away. The minimalist approach is well suited after a disorienting opening, so much so that I’m reminded of some of my very favorite earlier works by Thomas Köner. There is tranquility amidst the low-lying drone buzz, with just the right hint of movement. A squall begins to rage on Map 03, as Connor adds deteriorated effects of feedback, hiss and crackle – all providing an intermixture that results in an electrical storm of sorts. It’s the first glimpse of his bent towards the industrial workings of his larger map building in progress.

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Since this is my introduction to the work of this particular artist, I can’t help but thing each track here is a masterminded vignette, each with its very own signature, and slightly varying styles, rather than a typical longplayer. That continues with the coaster of mid-range highs and lows via Map 04. Combining a billowing drone with a grainy filter sets up an atmosphere not unlike a full blown sandstorm. There are lulls, but when it hits you are doused with a systematic fusion of coolness and organic flux. It’s in this mediated space of warm frequencies that makes this recording most radiant. Although another turn seems a bit less calculating, in terms of mood, when the warble of bass guitar pedal meets Map 05. It comes off like a dressed down instrumental version of riffs last heard on The Smiths’ classic Meat Is Murder. Here all the alterna-pop-rock has been removed and obscured by a range of blurring effects without any edge in sight. It becomes a transmission from another space and time.

The voluminous takes over, like a turbulent waterfall as the end begins on Map 06. Though we are slowly distanced from the din of the initial wall of sound there is a fleeting impatience suspended in open air. As a willing observer one may be induced into a hazy stupor as the piece smoothes over any previous irregularities, offering much needed down time to the average modern wo/man. Oh, one final surprise, right towards the end, in an axiomatic stroke of post-rock rhythm, this goes out blazing.

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